Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't plan on shutting down quarterback Cam Newton for the final two games of the season.
Newton is nursing an ailing right shoulder for the Panthers (6-8), who have lost six straight contests and are all but eliminated from playoff contention. They host the Atlanta Falcons (5-9) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET) and reside 1 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) and one game in back of the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and Washington Redskins (7-7) for the second wild-card spot in the NFC.
"There's still a slim glimmer, so we'll see," Rivera told reporters on Tuesday. "We'll continue to focus on playing football."
Rivera acknowledged that he had yet to talk to the team's doctors or training staff on the heels of Monday's 12-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player, Newton recorded season lows in completion percentage (55.2), passing yards per attempt (4.5), passing yards (131) and passer rating (52.5) against the Saints.
Rivera was asked if a less-than-healthy Newton is the best option for the team against the Falcons.
"I believe in Cam. So we'll leave it at that," Rivera said.
Newton noted on Monday night that there's a chance the Panthers shut him down for the final two weeks of the season.
"I guess if we have to have that conversation, we have that conversation," the 29-year-old Newton said, per the Charlotte Observer. "I'm not looking forward to that conversation."
Newton threw 15 touchdown passes against four interceptions during the first eight games of the season before seeing his numbers take a hit. He has tossed nine touchdown passes and nine picks in his last six contests.
Newton's continuing shoulder problem was a major part of his post-game session with reporters.
"Obviously my arm hasn't allowed me to do a lot of practice," he said. "I've been on a pitch count for a long time. It hasn't got worse over the weeks and hasn't got better over the weeks. Nothing changes. Just a lot of soreness and tension in the joint.
Newton led Carolina to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years last season by throwing for 3,302 yards with 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He also rushed for a career-high 754 yards and six scores.